Perhaps the reason we so often feel disappointed with God is because we think of him as a product we consume to make us feel better, instead of a father who disciplines us toward maturity. Perhaps like any good father, he allows us to feel pain in order to help us grow up.
We thought God was a magic pill to ease our pain, and it turns out he’s a real person who actually has the gall to tell us "No", as if he were some kind of authority on life. We thought if we threw the temper tantrum he would surely give us what we wanted, but he didn’t seem phased by it.
Perhaps we’d have an easier time if we reminded ourselves more often that God is our father, not a drink machine, and that growing to maturity involves learning to trust and submit to God, even when he doesn’t give us what we want.
This was so interesting to read as I’ve just starting reading C.S. Lewis’ “The Problem of Pain”…..I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.
I haven’t read that one yet, but those kinds of ideas are starting to gel in my head a bit more lately.
I think God has been marketed as this miracle drug for so long that even good, Christian people are trying to relate to God like he’s a product. After a few years of it “not working” we call the manufacturer to complain that the product does not work as advertised. The trouble is the “product” advertised was a God who acts like he’s in charge. I wonder if that’s the root of so much offense and disappointment with God.
I hope the book is an eye-opening experience for you. I’ve heard it’s a good one.
That’s funny… I almost bought that book today. Maybe I’ll go back and get it. :o) Good, thought-provoking posts, Ben.
This is so true, and something God has been revealing to me over and over again with the struggles with building this house, and then the mudslide. He has been here, and is still in charge, but it still doesn’t mean everything is going to work out perfectly in the end. I don’t even expect that anymore. It may have the perfect ending, it may not, but knowing that my faith is not dependent on that has given me a different kind of peace I don’t know how to explain.
One that I’m glad to have at a younger age, and hopefully can pass down to my kids, so that they can avoid the rollar coaster relationship with God, or expecting him to fix everything perfectly like “Bob The Builder” 😉
Sorry this is so long…I was also listening to an interview on NPR with a woman (not a christian), talking about suffering. She was talking about how in every religion, not just christianity, suffering is the tool, or the thing that bridges that gap and brings us closer to God. She was saying how in churches today, and in prayer and personal life, we are so obsessed with avoiding suffering. We try to avoid it, we want any discomfort taken away, and that’s what we’re usually always praying about. She said this eliminates that opportunity for growth, and for those moments when you really get close to God, and takes away those meaningful personal moments that really build a relationship with God. Hence, people are quicker to give up on God, or leave the religion because they never just dove in and tried to learn what they could from their moments of suffering. They just keep trying to run away from them. I’m not sure if I’m explaining that well, but that’s what prompted me into this topic, and to buy this book. It was good timing to hear it, as I was listening to it during our evacuation when we were in temporary housing!
Don Miller gave an excellent message about just this thing a few weeks back at Mars Hill in Grand Rapids. Very thought-provoking. He compared God to an infomercial product and to a dolphin jumping thru hoops. His point being we’ve been sold a lie. That accepting Christ will make us satisfied in some magic kind of way. When we’re not, we blame either God or ourselves, instead of questioning the message we were told.
You mentioned the root of much offense/disappointment might be this very phenomenon…that we ‘bought’ a product and are diappointed in the goods. I’d agree. But I’m not upset that God’s in charge…I’m upset at the salesman (though trying to get over that). If I’d known all along that the christian life was not about winding the Jack in the Box (which I did faithfully for many years with horrendously disappointing results) I’m not sure I’d have signed up. How do we present a palatable witness??? I think it has more to do with the embodied ideology you’ve talked about. Radical love, radical humility. And some will still turn away from that.
I found in the midst of that disappointment with not getting what I was told to expect, that I often turned the anger on myself…*I* must be winding the toy wrong or I’d get better results. It must be *my* problem, my *sin*, my failure to play by the rules. I don’t believe this now, but it strikes a deep pain in me to see others working that crank to the point of exhaustion, then beating themselves up when Jack doesn’t show up (like He’s supposedly showing up to others.) Someone needs to let us off the hook, take the risk to live a life of love, and put the focus on relating to Someone who doesn’t perform. Someone who isn’t ‘safe’ or ‘tame’ but it Goodness and Love embodied.
Brad Conner says
Great thoughts Cindy!
I particularly thought the piece about directing anger at God or even self was insightful.
There’s a difficult balance to strike in these things, I think. I must believe that God is powerfully at work in my circumstances, working things out for good, transforming me into his likeness. The whole of Scripture seems to point towards this as fact. I think that crux of the matter probably boils down to the idea that God’s ways are not always our ways, but they are wonderful nonetheless – more wonderful than we can imagine. More and more I am praying for eyes to see as He sees, a heart that values what He values. The things we have wanted have not always been what He has desired, and that’s where the conflict comes in (as you guys have said). But He is constantly performing wonderful acts on our behalf. He will reward those who seek him. He does do good to us. But perhaps we need to be prepared for the eventuality that some of the fruit of his work we just won’t see on this earth. But it is there… stored up.
Cindy, remember all those little kites. We must throw ourselves on the Father, clinging with all our might -clinging, not cranking :o) – and our hopes that are birthed in Him will surely not be disappointed.